Monday, October 3, 2011

Sapping My Drive

Most people who stop blogging do so because they run out of things to day ... and the estimates I've read suggest this happens after two to three years, even with people who are dedicated to the subject they've decided to take up.  Two to three years may not encompass all they have to say, but it does tend to be the length of time it takes before the 'magic' of blogging wears off, when the actual writing about things liked gets annoying and, well, unrewarding.

My partner was saying on the weekend that blogging (this is not my only blog) is probably sapping my drive to write fiction because it gives me instant gratification, while the writing is a long drawn out process of editors who may, or may not, publish me.  I sit down here and write something, and someone responds within an hour or two.  I sit down to write a short story and then send it off ... and even when it goes well, seven months passes and I get a small check and not even a copy of the magazine.  And there are no comments on the magazine at all.  I never know if anyone liked the story or not.

For people who write a blog post and get no immediate response, and who feel bad about that, I understand the feeling.  But where compared with the publishing industry, where you write and write and get little or no response for years at a time, a writer has to get over a few days, or even a few weeks, of disregard.  If not, well, you'll be putting a shotgun in your mouth by the time six months passes.

Writing is an unforgiving, miserable business.  When you compare it with being a musician, where an visceral response is gained within a few seconds of playing (positive or negative), writing is a waiting game.  You hand the work over and you wait while it takes them time to read it.  You can never be sure they've read everything - and so you can never be sure if their response includes the thrust and goal of what you were trying to say.  You can't corner people with your writing.  You can't push it very effectively at street corners.  You can't noodle around with others to get a new effect.  It is done alone, it is done slowly and it is done without much fanfare.

So the woman is right when she says blogging is sapping my writing; because this is a street corner where I can stand and shout and get response.  Not so much on this particular blog ... I haven't put in the time and effort to build up a readership.  I don't write here everyday.  I've had a few false starts with the book I want to write, Yonder.  Truth be told, a lot of writing IS false starts.  It's something you get used to.  You think, you work out the characters again, you make a few changes with the narrative or the amount of description, or you change the beginning or adapt modifications to events.  Then you start again.

People who expect instant success or instant effectiveness in their writing don't make very good writers.  J.D. Salinger wrote about his young self in Catcher in the Rye and then spent a very frustrating self-abusive forty years afterwards recognizing that he really wasn't much of a writer after all.  He spent forty years proving CITR was an immortal fluke (truth be told, I don't think it's much of a book, but how can I argue with three generations of masturbating English professors?).  I can't say exactly what Salinger's issue was, or why he couldn't write another book worth his salt.  He obviously didn't know how.

Me, I'm not sure I know how either.  That's not really important to me, and it couldn't have been to Salinger either.  Note I said, forty years.  That's not the kind of time you spend going on a lark.  That's a lot of work under the bridge, for good or ill.  He may have been crappy, but Salinger was dedicated.  And at any rate, he was a much better writer, for all his failures, than the average schmoe.

One of the things that struck me odd with this blog, seeing the gratification comments about it written elsewhere, on other people's blogs, was the old saw about my being a frustrated, unsuccessful writer moaning in my brew.  It is a solid standby for brothers-in-law, old teachers and employers, and virtually everyone else not very talented themselves to apply to virtually everyone who, unlike Salinger, spends forty years writing fiction without much to show for it.  And I suppose I expected it.  What strikes me odd  about it, as I said, is that I would think the example of the writing itself would be evident in, well, the writing I'm producing right now.

See, it's hard for me to view myself in the "frustrated wanna-be writer" persona when quite obviously from the proof on the blog itself that I'm actually am a writer.  I may not be a successful one, I may not have achieved everything I ever wanted in my life; I may not be famous like Salinger.  But my being a writer can't possibly part of the issue.  If I were a plumber, I'd probably be good at plumbing but still relatively unsuccessful because I am, at heart, lazy.  I like long, relaxed afternoons without working my ass off.  I like not writing unless I'm inclined to write.  I like the rest of the world fucking off while I do whatever pleases me at a particular instance.  If there is a reason I am not a household name as a writer, it is probably this.  I am not busting my ass here.

No, see, if I were busting my ass, I wouldn't be wasting any time with these blogs.  I'd be writing my novel.  I wouldn't be writing about not being able to write, or explaining what I hope to do or how I hope to do it ... I'd have my back turned on everyone, and I'd be writing my novel.  I wouldn't be playing games or mucking about with different pasttimes, or fucking away my evenings with the occasional video game or with graphic design.  I would be writing my novel.

But I don't.  So I would guess I'm not truly upset about my lack of success.  I would guess that success at the price of my laziness and comfort isn't success for me.  I'm a bit too zen.  It might be fun to be rich and famous.  I could probably get along with that.  The instant gratification would be greater than a blog comment.  I've had a few moments in the limelight and there's something to be said for it.

Truth be told, however, the gratification from here is enough, and if I write this novel, and the next one, and the one after that at a pace that suits me, it would suit me.  I'd certainly like to have a novel published.  Short stories have been nice, but a novel would be better.

Oh well.  It will happen when it happens.

1 comment:

  1. Ok, you convinced me to read your text..

    I'm nobody, but a person who likes to read what other persons like to write. So, no great deal with my opinion - only hope that can be good for your 'situations'.
    Before i read anything, let me try to tell you this: maybe the best creations of human mind were made without the concern of please anyone. Be yourself. People like or dislike your work for many reasons and you'll go nuts thinking about it.
    Forgive for any mistakes in my english, i'm brazilian and it's very hard to keep training other language here..
    I'll write again. Good luck.